Sunday, January 22, 2012

My 2011 Movie Odyssey - Part XIV

The Last King of Scotland (2006)
Forest Whitaker puts in an all-out performance as African dictator Idi Amin, a man who is instantly personable yet morally repulsive.

Contagion (2011)
This is the kind of movie that Roland Emmerich keeps making, but done right. A mysterious illness spreads over the world at an alarming rate, killing millions. The film tells the story of a wide variety of people and how they respond to living in the worldwide epidemic. The bulk of the screentime is devoted to the doctors and scientists who work trying to isolate the disease and develop a vaccine. Each is a hero in his or her own way. But we also get Matt Damon as the husband of the first person to die of the disease as he tries to keep together what’s left of his family and stay alive. We also get Jude Law as a conspiracy theorist/blogger who tries to profit from the epidemic. There’s Marion Cotillard as a World Health Organization agent who is kidnaped and held for ransom so that a village will be the first to get the vaccine. Director Steven Soderbergh deftly weaves all these story threads together to tell a story of how the world might cope if faced with a similar crisis in real life. Each storyline is compelling in its own way and is believable every step of the way. Which makes the movie all the more chilling as this could actually happen.

Summer Stock (1950)
Judy Garland and Gene Kelly put on a show! The story is amusing if nothing special. The main reason to see this movie is the scene in which Gene Kelly dances with a squeaky board and a newspaper. (Trust me, it’s amazing.)

Do You Like Hitchcock? (2005)
I do. Quite a lot, actually. Which is why I don’t recommend this movie. It makes direct homage to Strangers on a Train, Vertigo, Psycho, Rear Window, and Dial M for Murder but is vastly inferior to each of those films. If you like Hitchcock, watch more Hitchcock, not this second-rate imitation.

Hanna (2011)
It’s fun watching Saoirse Ronan kick butt, but I wish movies like this didn’t have so high a body count. The good guys kill random bystanders almost as frequently as the bad guys.

Marjorie Morningstar (1958)
The first half feels like a musical without any musical numbers and is kind of fun. Of special note is Ed Wynn who is very good as a protective, somewhat eccentric uncle. But the second half goes into full-on drama mode and gets really boring.

The Muppets (2011)
I’m a big fan of the Muppets, especially their work on The Muppet Show. One of the things that I noticed with their movies starting with Muppet Christmas Carol is that the humor wasn’t quite as sharp. It was as if the Muppets had been tamed. I was hopeful when the screenwriters claimed they were trying to recapture the feel of The Muppet Show and the first couple movies, but they were the same screenwriters who did very adult comedies. Would they be able to reign in their baser instincts and deliver a movie fit for the whole family? Fortunately, they did. The movie does an excellent job of keeping the feel of the television show. The jokes are funny, the songs are fun (with “Life’s a Happy Song” being an especially catchy standout), and there are some wonderful celebrity cameos. It was like spending time with old friends again, and I had a smile on my face through the whole movie.

King Kong (1976)
It’s not so much that it’s a bad movie, but that it’s not interesting, and the guy in a monkey suit is not nearly as convincing as the stop-motion Kong.

The Mummy (1932)
The makeup on Boris Karloff is really good, but the story is rather lackluster. And I never really understood the whole Egypt craze back in the day.

Les Girls (1957)
This musical takes the idea of the unreliable narrator and runs with it. The same basic story is told from three very different perspectives and it is quite fun watching the story unfold from each unique perspective. There are also some fun musical numbers including “Ladies in Waiting,” a surprisingly risque number for the time period.

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